Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Pennsylvania

I havea house in deed only can

will it to my family

Asked on 12/30/11, 6:36 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Miriam Jacobson Law Offices of Miriam N. Jacobson

You may will any property that you own, of any kind, to whomever you want. I don't know what "I have a house in deed only" means. If you're not sure about how or if you own the property, you should consult with a lawyer.

Also, you shouldn't try to create a will alone, not even from a kit or commercially available forms. Since those aren't tailored to your needs, you might create a document that does not accomplish what you want. In order for the will to be valid and admitted to probate, it has to be signed and witnessed and acknowledged in a certain way. Failing to meet those requirements may result in the will not being accepted for probate and therefore unenforceable. Your assets would pass in accordance with the Pennsylvania intestatacy laws, which may result in your assets going to people other than those you want to benefit.

A will with any defects or errors may lead to costly and time-consuming litigation by your family members. This is probably not what you'd want to cause for your family members.


* If the answers to your question confirm that you have a valid issue or worthwhile claim, your next step should almost always be to establish a dialog with a lawyer who can provide specific advice to you. Contact a lawyer in your county or township.

* Another reason for contacting a lawyer is that it is often impossible to give a good answer in the Internet Q&A format without having more information. The unique circumstances of your situation and things that you may not have thought to mention in your question may completely change the answer. If you want to be sure that you have a complete answer to your question and an understanding of what that answer means, establish a connection with a lawyer who practices in the area of your concern.

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Answered on 12/30/11, 8:08 pm

Your question makes no sense as phrased. If you are the owner of any property, whether its land or anything else, you may dispose of it by will. As an alternative, if land is owned as a joint tenancy with right of survivorship, then the land will pass to the survivors listed on the deed upon the death of the first owner. If this is what you want, you can simply convey the land (if it is owned free and clear) to yourself and the other person or persons.

If the house is mortgaged, then you probably cannot do a deed now unless your lender consents to adding the other person on the deed. The lender might also want that person on the mortgage. If that is the case, it might be better to do a will. There are tax reasons for willing rather than deeding it - the person will get a stepped up basis (the property will be valued as of the time of your death) if you leave the property by will. If the property is highly appreciated in value, there may be capital gains tax issues if you deed it now.

I am not a tax attorney and this is not tax advice. I am just suggesting that there may be tax consequences associated with deeding it now rather than by will and you may want to consult a CPA or tax attorney about those consequences if deeding the property away now is something in which you are interested. Of course, any tax consequences have to be viewed with your whole situation in mind.

I would ech Attorney Jacobson's advice. You may think you are saving a few dollars now by writing your own will or getting a do-it-yourself kit. While this may be fine for some people, they are not for everyone especially if there are complicating factors involved and there may or may not be - I don't know anything about your assets and debts. If you do this yourself and mess it up, you could end up costing your family or loved ones a whole lot more in legal fees to get this straightened out. So do yourself and your family/loved ones a favor and consult with counsel regarding your estate plan.

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Answered on 12/31/11, 12:55 pm

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